Ms. Emily: A Dash of Focus for an Ounce of Learning

You know how sometimes you can read a page from a book, and by the end of the page you have no idea what you just read.  I like to think it happens to all of us…sometimes.  Somehow you just lose focus on what you’re reading and your mind wanders.

Losing focus is something we struggled with last Friday.  I was given the opportunity to work individually with some students working on a class project.  The project was to teach their classmates something about our galaxy (e.g. Venus, the Sun, Asteroids, etc).  With one of the groups I worked with, somehow the discussion always reverted to the Twilight book series.  How did this just happen? We were just talking about one of the planets.  How do I get them to focus?  My first thoughts were to ask them questions about their planet and see if they knew the answers.  Hmm nope, now we’re talking about Twilight again.

Student: “I don’t like to read and write.” Hmm, and yet she reads the Twilight series and talks about writing her own novel someday.  Nope, I don’t think that’s the problem.  “Nothing here is interesting.”  Ok, that’s the problem.  I need to get her interested to get her to focus.

Me: “Wow, did you know that a Venusian day is longer than a Venusian year?  That’s really cool!  I didn’t know that.”  I really didn’t know that and I really did think it was pretty cool!

Student: “No, but that is cool!  What does that mean?”  And finally, we started to focus.

I believe this lack of focus in some of the students really affects their learning, but once they were focused the learning took place.  Throughout the day, I found that each group required different tailored efforts to get them to focus.  Therefore as teachers and mentors, how can we best get a large group to focus when everyone’s ability to focus might be different?

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About Emily Beck

I am a PhD student in Bioengineering at the University of Kansas and I am studying Tissue Engineering. I am interested in using nanoparticles and natural materials to create scaffolds that can assist in tissue regeneration/repair.
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